The protagonist of Finding Jupiter writes found poetry. How did you first discover found poetry and what impact has it had in your own life? Why was it important for you to weave found poetry into Finding Jupiter?
Before I knew what my young adult novel would be about, I knew that I wanted it to be a novel that made teens feel seen and that reflected healthy forms of self-care. At the time I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write another novel, because it was kind of a bucket list item for me. I decided to put everything I love and all the things that helped me navigate my teen years into this one book. Writing it would be cathartic for me, and hopefully reading it would also be part of the readers’ teen survival toolboxes as well. Drawing, writing poetry and reading (specifically escaping to the library down the street), were my medicine. Threehobbies are too many for a main character, and I didn’t want to leave one behind, so blackout poetry found in out-of-circulation library books made perfect sense. I’d seen blackout poetry before as collage art pieces and featured in other books. I hadn’t seen anyone incorporate classic novels into contemporary fiction in this way, and that was something that intrigued me. Choosing the classics was a no-brainer, once I decided that my main character would be a fan of classic fiction. The Great Gatsby was the book I read for school that made me into a person who reads for pleasure. It was the first book that made me feel very strong emotions—mostly anger and frustration out of empathy for Jay Gatsby. I’d never created found poetry before sitting down with The Great Gatsby to do it for Finding Jupiter. The first poem that appears in the novel is the first one I found. That’s where I found the inspiration for a story about a girl who never knew her father’s love. In Finding Jupiter, Ray processes her feelings about her father’s death and absence through the art and poetry she creates from Gatsby. But she’s also grappling with grief and fear of the vulnerability that comes with falling in love for the first time. Their Eyes Were Watching Godalso addresses the courage it takes to fully experience deep love and moving forward after profound loss. It was the first book that came to mind because it has had such an impact on my own journey towards love. What I love about the found poetry in a novel centering Black teens that will be read widely by young people of all races, is that it reinforces the act of reading a text that, on the surface, may not connect with any aspect of who the reader is, but will invite them to find words that move them or mayeven reveal to them some aspect of themselves.
Finding Jupiter by Kelis Rowe is published by Walker Books and available now.
There is an excellent discussion guide available via the link below.